Cable TV Too Expensive? Why Not try Cheap Alternatives to Cable?

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Cable television is expensive. Sure, those big cable packages give you several hundred channels to choose from, but are you watching enough of them to justify the cost each month? For the majority of us, there are a handful of television shows or channels that we watch regularly. There may even be a few shows…

Cable television is expensive. Sure, those big cable packages give you several hundred channels to choose from, but are you watching enough of them to justify the cost each month? For the majority of us, there are a handful of television shows or channels that we watch regularly. There may even be a few shows that you think you “can’t miss.”

I used to have “can’t miss” shows, but then my wife and I started talking about cable TV and whether or not we really need it. We were getting ready to move to a new state, so we did what many people would think is impossible – we cut cable and sold our TVs. That might be a bit extreme for some people, and I’m not saying you should do that. We have since bought a new TV (we have one in our home), but we have not subscribed to cable TV again, and we have no plans to do so.

If you thought about canceling cable to save money each month, then try these steps in this article. You can ditch cable and still watch TV!

Cutting the Cord on Cable TV Had Huge Impacts

There are many benefits to cutting cable TV. The two major benefits we experienced were more time and more money. Who couldn’t use more of both of those?!

The first change is time. TV can suck you in and not let you go. It’s easy to justify killing 15 or 20 minutes when you have a few minutes of down time. But sometimes that 15 or 20 minutes can turn into an hour or two. We are now more intentional with what we watch and when we watch it. Channel surfing is a thing of the past. I find TV much more enjoyable when I plan my viewing time – that way I don’t feel guilty or feel like I could be doing something more productive.

The second change is our budget. Our cable and internet package was roughly $90 per month, and this was about 7 or 8 years ago. Prices have since risen quite a bit in most markets. That was too expensive for what we got out of it (the base TV package, with no premium channels, was over $50 a month after the introductory price expired). We only rarely watched TV, and then it was usually limited to a few channels. We cut the cable TV service and elected to pay for faster internet service. We pay a lot for Internet service, but we are paying for a service we use.

How to Ditch Cable and Still Watch TV

The first thing to do is think about your TV watching habits. Do you have any specific “must see” shows? Write down the name of the show, and the network it is on. Do you watch a lot of sports. If so, see if there is a season pass you can buy for the Internet (you can stream these on many newer TV sets). Write down your TV watching habits – are you a channel surfer, do you TIVO or record everything, etc. Your responses will give you a good idea of whether or not you can drop your cable TV subscription.

What you need: You need two things to replace your cable TV – 1) a digital antenna, and 2) an Internet connection.

Digital antennas are awesome. You can get an inexpensive digital antenna at any electronics store for less than $40. Here is the cool thing about digital TV – you get a perfect signal, or you get nothing. You don’t have to deal with the fuzzy picture and static sounds of yesterday’s rabbit ears. The best part is that many TV stations now broadcast in HD. So you can get HD quality television over the air – which believe it or not, is often better quality than what you would get through a cable TV connection because of signal degradation and compression.

The Internet is your friend. As long as you have an internet connection, you can still watch some television. Many of the TV networks post videos of their shows on their websites which are available to watch for free. There are a number of other websites which provide hundreds of television series links, and allow you to browse the shows and watch all from their website. Some of the sites provide the service for free, while others charge a few bucks a month to users but either way, you’re going to save a lot of money compared to your existing cable bill.

Cheap Cable TV Alternatives

You can watch television series and movies on your computer monitor or laptop, but if you’re laughing at the thought of giving up your 47” television in favor of watching your shows on a small computer screen – don’t worry. You can still use your television when using the internet to watch TV.

Many of the newer televisions have connection options for hooking your television screen to your computer as the monitor. Once connected, you can navigate the internet, find and select your shows and hit play all while using your TV as the monitor. It’s a little more complicated with older televisions, but it can still be done.

Several companies offer hardware solutions you can set up with your TV to connect to the internet. You may also be able to use S Video cables and a DVD or Blue-Ray player to get the connection established. If you have an Xbox 360 or Nintendo Wii console – you can stream movies and television series directly from Netflix or other online companies.

One of my personal favorites is Amazon Prime, which gives you access to thousands of free TV shows, movies, and documentaries, and there are thousands of other movies and shows available on a pay per view basis. There is a monthly fee to use Amazon Prime, but it is much more than just a TV subscription as you can also get free 2-day shipping from Amazon, borrow Kindle books for free, and more – all for less than $8 a month (Amazon Prime is one of the best deals in the tech world, in my opinion!).

More Alternatives to Cable TV

Streaming TV Options: Some of the more popular streaming TV options include:

Most of these plans have different levels and options, depending on which plan you sign up for. My personal favorites for movies and documentaries include Amazon Prime Video and Netflix. If you want to watch more on-demand network television, then you may be better off going with Hulu. Hulu Plus and Hulu Live allow you to stream live network shows, including sports and other live events. You can compare Hulu and Hulu Plus in this review.

Network Websites: Some network websites also feature the ability to stream shows. But this option is more restrictive than using the streaming services like Netflix and Hulu.

You can also find many television shows on Youtube.com. The video sharing site is not actually intended for television shows, but many people take the time to record and upload their favorite television series. You will have to watch more than one video to get a complete episode, but they’re typically labeled with the name of the show, the episode number, and then “video 1” or “video 2”, so you can piece together the various videos you need to watch to see the whole show. While a little inconvenient, if the goal is to save money, even Youtube.com is a good option for cutting your $60 or $130 cable bill!

Don’t forget your local library! Most libraries stock a wide range of videos and DVDs of movies and television series. You can borrow them for free just as you would books.

Reducing your fixed expenses is one of the best ways to reach financial freedom, and dropping your cable TV costs is a great way to free up cash flow every month. Even dropping cable and adding a service like Hulu, Amazon Prime, or Netflix can save you several hundred dollars per year.

Have you dropped your cable TV subscription?



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About Ryan Guina

Ryan Guina is the founder and editor of Cash Money Life. He is a writer, small business owner, and entrepreneur. He served over 6 years on active duty in the USAF and is a current member of the IL Air National Guard.

Ryan started Cash Money Life in 2007 after separating from active duty military service and has been writing about financial, small business, and military benefits topics since then. He also writes about military money topics and military and veterans benefits at The Military Wallet.

Ryan uses Personal Capital to track and manage his finances. Personal Capital is a free software program that allows him to track his net worth, balance his investment portfolio, track his income and expenses, and much more. You can open a free account here.

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  1. Robert says

    I just bought a couple roku boxes ($20 off on Cyber Monday). I will be buidling an antenna (very easy, very inexpensive, better quality than you can buy in the store). We will be cutting the cord before the end of December and going with the tons of free roku channels, Hulu Plus ($7.99/month) and Amazon Prime ($79/year).

  2. Helena says

    I found the article interesting. After I lost my job, I spent time looking for cable alternatives. I ended up buying a e-book entitled “Remote Control: Stop Losing Money And Easily Take Control Over What You Watch on lulu.com. I saw someone talking about it on the Breaking Bad facebook page (I am a Fan). It cost me $6.37 and basically taught me how to put a program on my laptop that allows me to access movies, TV shows, anytime I like. I now only pay for my Internet charge. No more cable for us. My kids love it when we have movie night and I love that I don’t spend $160/month any more. Oh, and it also had a money back guarantee, so I figured what the heck. Anyway, hope that helps someone too.

  3. Jana says

    Yes, I dropped my cable many years ago. The cost was outrageous and also wanted to hurt the biased Leftist media. I still have a flat panel and I can hook up to local channels which includes the three major channels and all their tv shows. I just don’t though. I turn it on and think I’ll just have it as background noise like I used to. I can’t stand it. And I’ve watched some of the tv shows and they’re truly just horrible. I watch some things on YouTube, like the old Unsolved Mysteries, but generally I just don’t need tv.

    • Ryan Guina says

      Yes, Amazon Prime requires an internet connection to stream video. I recommend getting cable internet vs. dial up or DSL. DSL may be fast enough, but dial up will not be. A basic cable internet package should be enough for streaming video. Try the minimum plan, but if it isn’t fast enough, then bump up the service one level, try that, and repeat if necessary. But you should be fine with the basic package. Also be sure to check how much data streaming you have to be sure you don’t go over the plan limits, as that may be expensive, depending on your internet provider (many plans offer unlimited downloads, but it’s still a good idea to check).

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